Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Spotlight On...Crystal Skillman

Name: Crystal Skillman

Hometown: Born San Diego, grew up in Wappingers Falls NYC

Education:
Parsons School of Design

Favorite Credits: Cut (The Management in Spring 2011, Apollinaire Theatre, Boston); Vigil or The Guided Cradle (ITG/Brick; 2010 New York Innovative Theatre Award for Outstanding Full-Length Script); Nobody & Birthday (Directed by Daniel Talbott for Rising Phoenix Rep in NYC; U.K Premiere with Kibo Productions, and Side Project in Chicago).

Why theater?:
I love that moment in watching plays where I feel like my own life suspends, jumping into a story in the dark that helps me understand myself, and my place in the world. As a playwright, I strive to to really take my audiences emotionally to a very different place, and hopefully to revelations about choices in their own lives in way with plays that are crazy funny, sad and true.

Tell us about Wild: Wild is a real relationship roller coaster ride. As Kid Brooklyn puts it: “Peter and Bobby graduated from Northwestern together, live together, work together, sleep together. But when one of them cheats with a woman – Nikki – they dive into in a world of wild sexual affairs that threaten what they once had.” It was joyous and exciting and scary to write a relationship play that was all about big, huge dramatic moments through an intimate lens – all the moments that we catch in the play happen on a beach in Chicago (Oak Street) where Peter and Bobby once realized they were in love. The place holds that hope for them even as they lose – and find their way – through other lovers.

What inspired you to write Wild?: I created Peter and Bobby for a short play directed by Chris Tyler in a great site specific class run by director Daniel Talbott (who wrote the wonderful play Slipping and directed by my plays Birthday & Nobody) for Primary Stages ESPA Studios. I really adored these characters - felt there was so much more to them -- it’s important to me to create new, diverse characters. When the wonderful and brilliant Evan Caccioppoli (Daniel Talbott suggested he work with me) commissioned me to write a play for his company Kid Brooklyn Productions I got excited that he was looking for plays about young 20 somethings - excited to tackle an “explosive” play that pushed the envelope -  and I instantly thought of Wild. I shared it with Evan and he fell in love with Bobby and Peter just as I had. This was in August believe it or not and there were still only 10 pages! From there, I’d bring in scenes every month that we talked about at a little cafĂ© in Brooklyn called Bein Cut. (I had confidence working this way – similar to how Cut, just published by Sam French, commissioned last spring by The Management, was written). As I wrote I realized, there is a lot about love in my plays but I never tackled the subject of infidelity. It always fascinated me. Not why those in love have affairs but WHY they stay together. The play’s drive comes from that tension - completely comes from the relationships – as opposed to a traditionally plot based play – it’s really about what is being lost and gained as these characters lash out at each other, hold onto each other, fight against - and for each other - just trying to love – to be loved. When the play was read in New York at the Lucille Lortel in MCC Theater’s Playlab series this spring, the reaction was so great for Evan and I. It’s scary for us both as the play digs deep and our wonderful Chicago actors are really baring their souls and selves up there. It's a tremendous cast (Julia Daubert, Jude Hansen, Justin Harner, Evan Linder, Michael Manocchio, and Adam Schulmerich!) they're doing terrific work. There is a lot of intimate staging and um, well, very “stripping bare” moments. We wanted to push the way sex is used in the play. What I ultimately discovered in writing the play was that having affairs, and staying together, is actually about being obsessed with the person you’re cheating on. It’s like you’re looking for what they were, what you think you’ve lost, in someone else. In that way, sex with a stranger or lover, is about trying to capture love again. The play has dark moments, extremely crazy ass funny ones, and a lot of hope.

What kind of theater speaks to you? What or who inspires you as an artist?: I love theater that is very human with characters that are. When I watch a play I like to feel like I’m a fly on the wall. I love plays that tell their stories in unique ways but never lose sight of following the story they want to tell dramatically. I love plays that say something. I never care if a play is perfect – I care if it dares to be timely and timeless. So it’s everything from Pinter’s Betrayal to Penelope Skinner’s The Sound of Heavy Rain (love London playwrights) to Amy Herzog’s 4000 Miles or anything by Lynn Nottage. I’ve also been really jazzed by a lot of the work in Chicago. I read Lisa D’Amour’s Detroit and I went crazy. Loved it! I was lucky to first be produced in Chicago a few summers ago at the wonderful Side Project, which did my plays Birthday and Nobody last summer (I was honored to work with Adam Webster and Derek Garza as directors – Evan actually directed his first Kid Brooklyn play there!). Out there have gotten to know so many writers I love - I’m a huge fan of Chicago playwrights  - Laura Eason and Laura Jacqmin are friends and I adore the hell out of their work. So honored to be a part of this scene this summer.

If you could work with anyone you’ve yet to work with, who would it be?: So many! Of course to name folks is going to leave someone out. So I’ll give you one secret wish - one of my great joys is to have worked with so many great directors (most recently like Evan, Daniel Talbott, Sean Kelly, GT Upchurch, Robert Ross Parker, Michael Padden). One great director I have a dream of working with at some point is director Pam MacKinnon. I love her work so much - can't wait to see Clybourne Park!

What show have you recommended to your friends?:
There are lots of indie shows that have closed that I would have, but for now in NYC I’d suggest not missing out on Mac Rogers’s play Sovereign (the last in a sci-fi trilogy); 3C by David Adjimi at Rattlestick, Women’s Project’s We Play for the Gods, The Caretaker at BAM. For Chicago I’m super excited by all the pieces in Collaboration’s Sketchbook Reincarnate (I’m lucky to be in it as well with a super pop play fun I co-wrote with James Asmus called Psychonaut Librarians for the New Colony Theater, featured in the series called “The Three”. The whole festival runs June-July!), the upcoming Oedipus El Rey by Louis Alfaro at Victory Gardens looks awesome, and how cool is it that Strange Tree Group is putting on Robert Ross Parker’s adaptation of Goodbye Cruel World? Saw that show in NYC. It’s freakin’ brilliant! Also Christopher Shinn's Four is now a movie! Exciting stuff. Love that play and Chris's work.

Who would play you in a movie about yourself and what would it be called?: Anne Hathaway (but only if Rachel Zoe styles and she wears huge classes and is forced to play the total geek that I am) it would totally be called: “ESCAPE FROM PLAYWRIGHT ISLAND!” Maybe with a subtitle? "A Documentary Filmed in Real Time!"

What’s your biggest guilty pleasure?: It used to be reality TV, but now it might be listening to the X-Men soundtrack while I run?! It’s sooo good!

If you weren’t working in theater, you would be a … photographer! I studied at Parsons School of Design and Hartford Art School. I’m entertaining the idea of a new play set in art school called F&*(&* Art actually. J

What’s up next?: Wild opens in Chicago on June 15th and there’s Psychonaut Librarians which just opened in Sketchbook. Upcoming productions in NYC include Geek, about two girls racing through a comic-con to get the signature of their childhood idol, which Vampire Cowboys will rock in Spring 2013. We just did a workshop of the play here that got a tremendous response. I just finished my new full length Another Kind of Love, about a family of rock star sisters that we just workshopped at in an Overturn Residency at IRT with director GT Upchurch - hope you’ll hear more about that play in the future. Short play wise I’m thrilled to be writing a site specific play set in Southampton for actors Jelena Stupljanin and J. Stephen Brantley that Daniel Talbott will be directing for Hardsparks Theater on June 25th (the night features plays by J. Stephen and Daniel too!)

For information on Kid Brooklyn Productions, visit  http://www.kidbrooklynproductions.org/. For information on The New Colony, visit http://thenewcolony.org/. For information on Hardsparks Theater, visit http://www.hardsparks.com/.

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